Training Managers to Coach their Teams

training managers to coach

By Marla Rosner, Senior Learning & Development Consultant, MSA Worldwide

“How can our training program ensure that managers immediately apply their new skills?”

On-the-job feedback reinforcing good performance or redirecting poor performance is essential for the growth and success of employees and your business. Imagine a basketball team improving its game in the absence of feedback from the coach – likely there would be only random improvement, and poor habits would be repeated until they were deeply ingrained.

As on the basketball court, unit managers in a franchise system have a critical coaching role to play in developing their teams. Since new employees don’t begin with perfect proficiency to execute the many tasks in their jobs, clear goals and feedback from their manager enable staff to hone their performance. Yet, one of the most common management skill gaps is in the area of providing ongoing feedback.

In fact, if a performance problem exists, many managers are fearful about addressing it due to their lack of skills, practice, and confidence in how to provide professional guidance in a constructive manner, with the most common fear being that an employee will either become hurt or angry. Unfortunately, when managers fail to coach, employees’ continued poor performance can have negative consequences on customers as well as morale, and can become “contagious” – i.e., other employees may copy the undesirable behavior because of what appears to be tacit approval from management.

What are the Components of Coaching Skills?

In addition to the ability to recognize what constitutes good performance and quality in your business, the skills needed by managers to effectively coach include:

  • Goal setting.
  • Effective articulation of the desired behavior or performance.
  • The ability to praise specific behaviors when done correctly or when performance exceeds expectations.
  • The ability to convey specifically and factually what behaviors need correction without putting the employee on the defensive.
  • The ability to tie corrected behavior to the needs of the business; e.g., customer service, repeat business, referrals, product quality, etc., so employees come to understand the importance of their performance.
  • The ability to listen effectively.
  • Adept question-asking.

These coaching skills fall into the category of interpersonal communication skills or “soft skills.” But don’t mistake “soft” for “easy,” or for innate emotional intelligence. For managers who may have come to the position without coaching skills, as is the case for most first-time managers in a franchise as well as some franchisees, a structured approach to training is the path forward.

Best Training Methods to Impart Coaching Skills

Soft skills training ideally uses a classroom setting to allow for the introduction and demonstration of these skills and most importantly, live practice (yes, role playing). Demonstration, either by a skilled trainer or on video, serves as a behavioral model so that managers can see and hear effective performance coaching. This is the gold standard for soft skills training. It affords managers the opportunity to practice fledgling skills, get feedback from the trainer, and build confidence.

However, classroom training alone does not ensure that managers will begin proactively coaching their teams. Program wrap-up should include action plans to immediately apply the skills back on the job, providing needed feedback and re-direction to their crews. Critical to locking in the new behavior is looping in the manager’s boss, whether it be a general manager or franchisee, or a trainer to follow up on the post-training action plan. This on-the-job follow-up should include:

  • Meeting with the newly trained manager to learn how the program went;
  • Asking what support the manager needs to be successful with the new skills;
  • Continuing to check in with the manager on how their coaching dialogues are going with staff – until the new skills become second nature.

How Does Corporate Culture Fit In?

Training managers in the use of coaching skills can be a valuable investment, producing increased productivity and quality in your organization. If a front-line manager learns in a program that coaching is important, but their boss doesn’t utilize coaching methods as a part of their own management practices, the new behavior can disappear quickly. Training sticks best when what is taught aligns with the company culture. Examine whether upper management is modeling the behavior desired in front line managers, e.g., providing ongoing professional feedback to ensure they grow and do their jobs effectively.

For assistance developing and delivering management coaching skills and other training programs for your business, contact Marla Rosner, Senior Learning and Development Consultant at mrosner@msaworldwide.com, or call at 415-225-8607.